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MENTALLY IMPAIRED BOY RAPES FOUR YEAR OLD GIRL

A boy, 15, accused of raping a four-year-old girl was living in a rented house, with no extra security aside from round-the-clock supervision, when he escaped and allegedly struck again.

The mentally impaired boy was three weeks from trial when he allegedly slipped away from a Department of Child Protection officer for 20 minutes and allegedly raped an eight-year-old boy in the regional community he was living.

The department took custody of the teenager once he was charged for the first rape in October, 2009, and removed him from the remote community where the girl was living.

They also assumed the full-time job of monitoring the boy after they did not fight a bail application when he first faced court.

Department director-general Terry Murphy today said that was a mistake.

“We can not accept the responsibility of going surety on bail if we don’t believe a child will be safe and well cared for in those circumstances and that’s what is clear in retrospect what we should have done,” he said.

“Now there is a lot of pressure from the community, of which the judiciary are a part, that young people shouldn’t be locked up and that’s not an unreasonable position.

“But clearly here, with our capacity, in a country town, where staff are difficult to get, suitable facilities are non-existent – in retrospect unfortunately we should not have accepted bail.”

Mr Murphy said the need to find separate, last-minute accommodation for the boy resulted in an ad hoc arrangement that would have cost the department “tens of thousands of dollars”.

“It was staffed around the clock by residential care officers who normally staff our hostel and it was quite close to our hostel,” he said.

“But this was a specific arrangement we put in place for this young person in a country town. And that highlights the difficulty in establishing what needed to be very secure arrangements in that sort of setting.

“Now we did our best and we kept him safe for a long time but clearly there was a lapse and that is terribly unfortunate for which the department is sorry.”

He said accepted that teenager would have had to spend two years in detention without conviction had they refused bail.

“But on a case-by-case basis it has to be judged whether we or any other agency has the capacity to keep a child and the community safe and if not, custodial detention whilst on remand is available,” he said.

The teenager’s family have given up all care of the boy, according to Mr Murphy.

He believed it was only a small handful of children, like this teenager, who posed a true threat to the wider community due to the lack of appropriate facilities to house them.

He said there was a review underway and discussions were being held with the Mental Health Commission and Disability Services Commission.

The teenager used a scooter to slip away and came across the younger boy, who was living with a foster family and had been playing outdoors among a group of children on the afternoon of August 6, The West Australian reported.

The pair of boys walked off from the group when the alleged incident occurred.

“The family of the victim are being well supported by the department,” Mr Murphy said.

“We take that responsibility very, very seriously. Of course they are very upset but we have been with them every day over the last 10 or 11 days and they will be supported as much as necessary to get through this and for the young boy to be okay.”

The teenager has now been remanded in custody at the Rangeview juvenile detention facility and will face court next week.

It has yet to be established if he is fit to stand trial.

It is the second time a mentally ill teenage boy, who had a record for committing rape, escaped the custody of the department and managed to commit a further offense against a handicapped woman.

The State Opposition has called for the development of a specialist secure facility for high risk children.

Shadow Minister for Child Protection Sue Ellery has accused the department of allowing the teenager to be placed in the community just minutes away from other children.

“Child Protection Minister Robyn McSweeney has failed to learn from the high profile case of the abuse of an intellectually disabled girl at a respite facility last year,” Ms Ellery said.

Ms Ellery said the Minister should explain why there had been no action since the distressingly similar case a year ago.

“The Ministers for Child Protection, Mental Health, Disability Services and Corrective Services must admit there is a small but high-risk group of children who cannot be cared for in a community setting,” she said.

“This boy slipped through cracks that should have been obvious when the assault on the disabled girl occurred last year.

“How many more children will be attacked before the Barnett Government acts?”

Child Protection Minister Robyn McSweeney has been contacted for comment.


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